USA TODAY projects Patriots to sneak into postseason with 10-7 record

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The New England Patriots have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL and plenty of uncertainty with no coordinator on offense (or defense) in Mac Jones’ second season. But USA TODAY’s Nate Davis thinks New England can sneak into the postseason. He ranked the Patriots as the seventh-best team in the AFC and projected them to finish with a 10-7 record, just good enough for a second consecutive postseason berth under Jones.

There should be some question about the end of New England’s schedule, with a handful of extremely tough matchups, including two against the Buffalo Bills. But Davis was actually concerned about how the Patriots might start. Here’s a look at what Davis wrote in his subscriber-only article:

“(7) New England Patriots (10-7): Could be an ugly start with trips to Miami, Pittsburgh and Green Bay occurring in the first four weeks with the lone date at Foxborough against the always nasty Ravens. But the Pats aren’t strangers to slow starts and might also struggle to find their early footing while adapting to the absence of longtime OC Josh McDaniels. But expect second-year QB Mac Jones and mastermind coach Bill Belichick, who’s only missed the playoffs twice in a three-year span once since arriving in New England, to recover.”

The games in Miami and Pittsburgh aren’t all that worrisome. The Dolphins are acclimating to their new head coach, Mike McDaniel, and a new roster of offensive talent. The Steelers are working with new quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky. I remain convinced the difficult part of the schedule comes at the end — and that might be where the Patriots falter and, ultimately, come to miss the playoffs.

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